Articles Tagged with child support

iStock-483611874Sometimes Texas child-support disputes can continue well past the child’s eighteenth birthday.  A Texas appeals court recently decided a case regarding back child support for children who were in their 50s.

This case dealt with a writ of income withholding and child-support liens.  Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § § 158.301, a parent may file a notice of application of judicial writ of withholding if there is a delinquency in child support that is at least the total due for a month. The notice must include the amount of the arrearages and the amount to be withheld. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.302(1).  The obligor may file a motion to stay the writ within 10 days of receiving the notice.  Tex. Fam. Code § 158.307(a).  The clerk of court may not deliver the judicial writ of withholding until a hearing has occurred. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.308.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the trial court ordered the father to pay child support when the parents divorced in 1970.

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iStock-483613578A geographic restriction in a Texas custody order helps ensure the parent without physical custody has access to the child, but it can also impose severe limitations on the mobility of the parent with physical custody of the child.  In a recent case, a mother challenged the imposition of a geographic restriction on the child’s primary residence by the trial court after a jury found she should be the child’s sole managing conservator.

Modification Suit Filed After Prior Order

The final divorce decree named the parents joint managing conservators and gave the mother the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence within a specific county.  The father later petitioned for modification, seeking the right to designate the child’s primary residence. The mother asked the court to remove the father as a joint managing conservator and name her sole managing conservator with the exclusive rights set forth in Tex. Fam. Code § 153.132, including the right to designate the primary residence.  She also asked for an additional $100 per month in child support.

The jury found the mother should be appointed the sole managing conservator.  No other issues were presented to the jury. The judge’s letter ruling indicated she wanted to place a geographical restriction on the mother’s right to designate the child’s primary residence, but was uncertain of the court’s authority to do so under the circumstances.  The letter ruling stated the court imposed the geographic restriction if both parties’ counsel agreed it could, but not if counsel agreed it could not.  If counsel disagreed as to whether the court could impose the restriction, the court requested they provide authorities on the issue. The trial court denied the modification of the child-support obligation.

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iStock-531351317When a court determines the amount of Texas child support a parent is obligated to pay, it must consider that parent’s net resources.  The statute sets forth certain items to be included in the parent’s net resources and other items that are not to be included.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.062.  An appeals court recently had to determine if a trial court could consider an item that is not specifically included in the statute.

The divorce decree required the father to pay child support, provide health insurance, and reimburse the mother for 50% of non-covered health-care expenses.

Mother Moves for Modification

The mother subsequently moved to modify the decree to change the father’s possession and access and to increase his child-support obligation.  She also moved to enforce the decree, claiming the father failed to reimburse her for health-care expenses.

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iStock-1132277483In determining the Texas child-support obligation of a parent, the court may consider whether that parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.  If the court finds the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it may apply the support guidelines to that parent’s earning potential, rather than to their actual earnings.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.066.  The court does not have to find the parent was attempting to avoid child support to find intentional unemployment or underemployment.

In a recent case, a father challenged the denial of his request for modification of his child-support obligation following a change in jobs that resulted in a significant salary reduction.  When the parties divorced in 2015, the trial court appointed the parents joint managing conservators and gave the mother the exclusive right to determine the children’s primary residence. The father was ordered to pay $1,600 in monthly child support and to maintain insurance for the children.

Mother and Father File Competing Modification Suits

The mother petitioned to modify the medical-support provision to give her the obligation to maintain medical insurance in 2019.  The father counter-petitioned to reduce his monthly child support based on a change in his salary.

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iStock-483611874The trial court has some discretion in determining the modified amount of child support when it has determined that a Texas child support order should be modified. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.125 provides a schedule of percentages that are presumptively applied when the parent’s net monthly resources do not exceed a specified amount. The trial court, however,  may consider the listed factors or “any other reason” to determine the application of those amounts is not in the best interest of the child.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.123. There must be evidence of the child’s “proven needs” in the record for the court to deviate upwards from the guidelines. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.126.

A father recently challenged a modification to his child support obligation, arguing the trial court improperly deviated from the presumptive amount. According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties’ 2017 divorce decree obligated the father to pay $1,710 in child support each month for one child (i.e., max child support at the time). In 2018, he petitioned to modify the amount of child support, claiming his income had decreased.

Father Seeks Reduction in Child Support

The father lived in California and worked as a vice president, selling software testing. His base salary was $80,000, but he also earned commissions and a significant bonus (up to 50% of his base salary). The mother had been a homemaker, but had just begun providing catering services at the time of the hearing.  She had earned approximately $1,400 for the one event she had catered at the time of trial.

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iStock-531351317Texas family law considers Social Security disability benefits to be a substitute for the parent’s earnings. Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 157.009, when a child receives a lump-sum payment due to the parent’s disability, the parent is entitled to a credit applied to any arrearage and interest. Additionally, when a trial court applies the child support guidelines to a parent who receives disability benefits, the court must determine how much child support would be ordered under the guidelines then subtract the value of any benefits paid to the child as a result of the parent’s disability.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.132.

The Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) recently appealed a trial court order applying a lump sum disability payment as a credit to future child support. The trial court signed the parents’ divorce decree in 2016.  The court ordered the father to pay $603.25 in monthly child support.  He filed a petition for modification in 2018, asking the court to modify his child support obligations. The OAG intervened, stating he owed back child support and asking the court to enter judgment for the arrearages and accrued interest.

Father Argues He is Entitled to Future Credit for Disability Payment

The OAG stated in its brief that the father had started receiving Social Security Disability benefits and the children had received a lump sum benefit payment. The OAG contended that amount could only be used as a credit against the father’s arrearage and not for future child support.  The father, however, asked the court to give him a credit against his future obligation.

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BSgavelx1200-768x432-1The trial court in a Texas family law case has only a limited ability to change its judgment once its plenary power expires.  Generally, plenary power lasts for thirty days from the date the final judgment is signed, but it may be extended if the court overrules certain motions or modifies the judgment while it still has plenary power.

In a recent case, a mother challenged the court’s authority to reform the judgment.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, she had petitioned for the adjudication of the parentage of her child.  Both the mother and the alleged father sought an order adjudicating him to be the child’s father.

The parties reached a partial agreement and went to trial on the remaining issues.

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There is a strong presumption in Texas family law that it is in the child’s best interest for a parent to be awarded custody over a non-parent. In a recent case, a father appealed a judgment naming him joint managing conservator with the child’s maternal grandmother. A central issue in the case was the father’s argument that he should have been appointed the child’s sole managing conservator based upon the parental presumption.

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iStock-483611874If a parent in a Texas child-support case is intentionally unemployed or underemployed resulting in an income significantly less than what they could earn, the court may calculate child support based on their earning potential. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.066(a).  The other parent has the burden of showing that the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.

A father recently challenged a trial court’s finding that he was intentionally unemployed or underemployed and the child-support obligation based upon that finding.

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iStock-848796670Generally, there must be a material and substantial change in circumstances to justify a modification of a Texas custody order. An appeals court recently considered whether a father judicially admitted the existence of a material and substantial change when he objected to the modification sought by the mother, but petitioned, in the alternative, for different modifications.

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